It finally happened: After a string of ties, reigning champion Magnus Carlsen threw caution to the wind - and lost. As a result, Sergey Karjakin has taken a 4.5 to 3.5 lead at the World Chess Championship.
Carlsen had predicted after Sunday's seventh consecutive draw that the World Championship series was about to get more interesting - and he turned out to be right.
However, he (and most chess fans) probably hadn't expected his prediction to come true in the manner it did. Monday's eighth game turned out to be a nightmare for the world champion, who was forced to concede defeat after a dramatic contest that lasted some six hours.
"It's great, of course, to win such a tough game against Magnus," his challenger, Sergey Karjakin, told reporters in New York after the game. With four game to go, the dark horse now has a good chance to pull off an upset and become the new world champion.
Errors in the time pressure phase
At first, it showed no signs of turning out to be a thriller. Carlsen chose the time-honored opening known as "Colle-Zuckertort", which is popular in amateur circles, but rarely used by professionals. After the first moves it looked like Karjakin was on top but, in typical fashion, Carlsen succeeded in slowly but surely putting pressure on his opponent. As so often has been the case in this tight World Championship match, Carlsen gained the initiative and Karjakin went on the defensive, risking very little.
As the time pressure on Carlsen increased, he rolled the dice by sacrificing a pawn on the 35th move but it was a terrible mistake. The computers that were following the play immediately showed that Carlsen was now on course to lose the game. However, the world champion was in luck: Karjakin quickly made a serious mistake of his own, allowing Carlsen to stabilize the situation by the first time control.
Carlsen goes for broke
If anybody had thought that after this back and forth, Carlsen would be happy with a draw, they were wrong. Carlsen again chose a succession of risky moves in an effort to win the game - but it didn't work.
This time, the chess gods weren't having it and the champion from Norway was quickly at a disadvantage. The Russian defensive specialist Karjakin once again made the better moves and won the game in the 52nd move.
"There are still four games to play, and anything can still happen," Karjakin at the post-game press conference.
Carlsen did not take any reporters' questions. When Karjakin arrived a little late, the visibly disappointed world champion stormed off the podium and left the venue - something that will doubtlessly result in a fine. It now promises to be very difficult for Carlsen to even the score, particularly as Karjakin is playing with growing confidence. After all, the Russian grand master no longer needs to to take any risks and can simply lay back and wait for opportunities to counterattack.
One thing is certain: If the Russian does actually manage to win the series, this would be one of the biggest-ever upsets in the history of the World Chess Championship.